Street fights are a common occurrence, and nowadays, they are happening more and more in NYC. They can happen anywhere, any time, and for any reason. According to a 2022 report by the National Institute of Justice, there has been a recent increase in violence and street fighting in the United States. The report found that the rate of violent crime in the US increased by 5.3% between 2019 and 2020 and street fighting increased by 8.1%.

The report also found that the increase in violence and street fighting was disproportionately concentrated in certain cities and neighborhoods. For example, the rate of violent crime in Chicago increased by 16.4% between 2019 and 2020, and street fighting increased by 22.7%.

This concerning news intrigued me to take a deeper look. Over the past few years, I analyzed and studied more than 1000 real-life street fighting videos to try and identify any common patterns and trends.

Here are some of the conclusions I have drawn from my analysis:
  1. Street fights are often started over petty reasons. This could be something as simple as a dirty look or a spilled drink, or even just a bump in the street. I continue to ask myself, what does fighting over such small reasons serve?
  2. Street fights are unpredictable. I could never predict what was going to happen in the first few seconds of the videos. Even after adjusting the playback speed, I couldn’t have anticipated how these situations could turn so violent so quickly.
  3. Everything happens almost instantaneously. In the majority of the videos I have watched, the “heat” increases extremely fast. It took one person to demonstrate aggression: the other would immediately follow.
  4. The fights are usually short and chaotic. Because they often start and end so quickly, and there is a lot of pushing and shoving without real strategy. In the absence of effective striking, the fight ends with grappling and ground fighting.
  5. The vast majority of people who choose to fight aren’t skillful: they have no “self-defense” plan or de-escalation skills. Instead, it seems as though their strategy is just a determined hope that they will win.
  6. In most fights, one side is offensive and the other acts in self defense. Because most of the ‘fighters’ were lacking in skill, they had no way of knowing how to turn self-defense into an offensive. In Krav Maga, we say “use your knowledge according to your needs”. I assume that not only did these fighters not have the “knowledge,” but they also didn’t know what their “needs” were.
  7. Size and strength are not always the determining factors in a street fight. While size and strength can certainly give someone an advantage, there have been many cases where smaller and weaker people have been able to defeat larger and stronger opponents.
  8. The element of surprise is often very important in a street fight. If you can surprise your opponent, you will have a much better chance of winning. This is why it is important to be aware of your surroundings and to be prepared for anything.
  9. There is a high risk of injury in street fights, and many untrained fighters may use weapons or objects as weapons. Weapons can be a deciding factor: if someone has a weapon, they will have a significant advantage over someone who does not. This is why it is important to avoid street fights whenever possible.
  10. Crazy usually wins. “Crazy” is more likely to take risks. This can be a big advantage, as it can allow you to land the first punch or take your opponent by surprise. This can make it difficult for an opponent to plan their attack. When things get tough, people with a “crazy” mindset are more likely to keep going. They don’t give up easily, which can be a major factor in winning a fight.Of course, there are also some drawbacks to having a “crazy” mindset. Because “crazy” can be unpredictable and scary, it also means one is more likely to make mistakes. Risks must be managed. 
  11. Ego usually loses. People who respond with anger aren’t strategic, and they telegraph their moves, unintentionally alerting their opponent to what is coming from them next. When people are driven by ego, they are often more focused on winning or proving themselves than they are on actually being strategic. This can lead them to make rash decisions, take unnecessary risks, and telegraph their moves to their opponents.In contrast, people who are able to control their ego and remain calm and collected are often more strategic and effective in their decision-making. They are better able to assess the situation and make the best move for the moment, and they are less likely to make mistakes.
  12. Experience matters! I could identify people who have been involved in fights prior to the recordings, and watched how they carried themselves very differently before, and during the fight. After the fight, these people showed little to no post event trauma. They knew what to expect and the possible results were clear to them.
  13. Most people don’t use kicks in a street fight. Kicks require a lot of practice to be executed effectively. If you don’t have the training, you are more likely to miss your kicks or to injure yourself. On the other end, kicks can be dangerous, and people have good reason to be afraid of getting kicked in the head or the groin.
  14. Most people don’t want to throw a preemptive strike, even when they know the fight is about to escalate. There is a window of opportunity and when it has closed, the defender is usually playing “catch up” and trying to keep their head above water while dealing with their opponent’s offense.One may not throw the first strike because they are afraid of getting in trouble, or because they do not want the situation to escalate or because they are convinced they cannot win. Depending on the situation, these assumptions may be true, but of course there are some situations when throwing a preemptive strike is the best option available.When one is being threatened with violence or is about to be attacked, a preemptive strike may be the best method of protection.
  15. Fancy moves don’t finish fights. Most people don’t possess the level of proficiency or practice required to pull them off. Also, many moves that “work on the mat” are for skill building and may not apply directly to real life situations, especially in the traditional forms of martial arts where respect for your opponent is integral to the practice. In self-defense, simple is always best.
What influences people to act in violent behavior?

Many factors can influence the behavior of an attacker, including their personality, motivation, and the situation. Anyone can become an aggressor or a victim. It all depends on the circumstances. Most times the aggressor is someone who’s comfortable around violence, but it can also be a good person who is having a bad day.

There are some general characteristics that are often associated with attackers. This analysis is based on a few studies (referenced below this blog post):

  •   •Aggressors may be naturally impulsive and aggressive. They may be quick to anger, and more likely to resort to violence. They may have a history of violence, being involved in other fights or violent behavior in their past. It means it is not their first time. They are already comfortable in chaos. Are you?
  •   •People with a history of violent behavior are more likely to repeat violent acts.
  •   •Drugs and alcohol can influence aggression. This can impair their judgment and make them more likely to act impulsively.
  •   •Attackers may be motivated by anger, jealousy, or revenge. They may even be seeking to hurt or punish their victim for something they themselves have done.
  •   •They are likely male. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 90% of perpetrators of violent crimes against women are male.
  •   •They were likely young. The average age of a perpetrator of a violent crime is 26.
  •   •They were likely under the influence of alcohol or drugs. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol is involved in about half of all violent crimes.
  •   •They were likely motivated by anger or rage. People who commit violent crimes are often angry or enraged.
  •   •They were likely seeking power or control. People who commit violent crimes often want to feel powerful or in control.

It is important to note that these are generalizations and not all attackers fit this profile. However, these points can give you some common clues about an attacker’s motivations and characteristics.

I must assume that street fights can have a lasting impact on the participants. Even if they are not injured physically, they may suffer from emotional trauma or psychological damage. The first time is always impactful! The long-lasting effect is more likely to stick with those who have participated for the first time. Those who have had a fair amount of experience in stressful situations as such are more equipped to “brush it off.”

Based on all the above, I would conclude that most fights are started over petty reasons, and they can result in serious injury or other serious implications.

What to do in order to stay safe?

If you find yourself in a situation where you are likely to get into a street fight, the best defense is to avoid it or to de-escalate the situation as quickly as possible. If you find yourself in a street fight, I recommend the following tips to stay safe:

  •   •Avoid street fights whenever possible. If you can avoid a fight, do so. Better a bruised ego than a broken body.
  •   •If you are threatened, attempt to de-escalate the situation when possible. This may involve talking the attacker down, backing away, or simply ignoring them.
  •   •If you are threatened and you cannot de-escalate the situation, defend yourself in a way that is necessary and proportionate to the threat. This may involve using physical force, but it is important to use only as much force as is necessary.
  •   •Disengage as soon as you possibly can. The “happy ending” is when you are safe. There’s no referee or special music with lights that will declare you as the winner, even if you “win”. You win when you can return to safety. It may not feel as satisfying as you have seen on the big screen or as you imagined. But that is real life.
  •   •If you are not sure how to use force, learn Krav Maga!!!

Do something amazing,

Tsahi Shemesh
CEO and Founder
Krav Maga Experts



1Study: Giancola, P. R., & Parrott, D. J. (2008). Further evidence for the validity of the Taylor aggression paradigm. Aggressive Behavior, 34(3), 214-229.
2Study: Widom, C. S., & Maxfield, M. G. (2001). An update on the “cycle of violence.” Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.
3Study: White, H. R., & Hansell, S. (1998). Acute and long-term effects of drug use on aggression in adolescence. Journal of Drug Issues, 28(4), 863-894.
4Study: Truman, J. L., & Morgan, R. E. (2014). Nonfatal domestic violence, 2003–2012. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.